By Sujit Chakraborty
Imphal, May 27 (Ajit Weekly News) More than two years after closure of the India-Myanmar trade, the bilateral business through Manipur’s Moreh-Tamu border would resume soon, officials said on Friday. The official trade through the Moreh Integrated Check Post (ICP) has been closed since March 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.
The External Affairs Ministry’s Border Management (BM) Division earlier this week has sent an advisory to Manipur Chief Secretary Rajesh Kumar to resume India-Myanmar border trade.
MEA’s Border Management Division Joint Secretary Smita Pant in her communication to Manipur Chief Secretary said: “We have now been approached by the Myanmar side to open the border gates for resuming border trade between India and Myanmar. All concerned stakeholders in Government of India and Manipur state government have recommended opening border gate no 1 at the ICP, Moreh.”
A senior official of the ICP, Moreh on Friday said that on the basis of the MEA advisory, which is available with the Ajit Weekly News, the Manipur government would soon issue a formal order to resume the trades between India and Myanmar.
“Immediately after the Manipur government order, the border trades would resume. In view of the closure of the border trades for more than two years, the traders of both sides of the border were affected and the government also losing revenue. Also due to the closure of the border trades, illegal smuggling of various contrabands and drugs are going on,” the ICP official told Ajit Weekly News over phone, refusing to be named.
ICP Moreh along the international border between India and Myanmar, located at a distance of about 110 km from Manipur capital Imphal.
Considering its strategic location, ICP Moreh has the advantage of acting as India’s gateway to the eastern neighbours through the Moreh-Tamu border point, which is presently only feasible and operational land route for trade between India and Myanmar and other South East Asian Countries.
The ICP Moreh, spread over a total area of 45.58 acres land and set up in 2018 with an estimated cost around Rs 72.67 crores, is situated along the proposed 1,360 kms long India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway.
The India-Myanmar Friendship Bridge in Moreh connects India to Kalewa in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division.
Traders on both sides of the border are keen to resume the India-Myanmar trade through the Moreh and Mizoram’s Zokhawthar (closed for many years) trading points to curb the rampant illegal trade in various items, especially highly addictive drugs.
Moreh in Manipur and Zokhawthar in Mizoram are the two important international trading points along the 1,643-km long India-Myanmar unfenced border.
The Mizoram-based International Trade Initiative Forum (ITIF) recently urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mizoram Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati to resume the trades with Myanmar through the Zokhawthar border point.
ITIF President P.C. Lawmkunga, a retired IAS officer who was the Chief Secretary of Manipur, said that Indo-Myanmar border trade at Zokhawthar in Champhai district of eastern Mizoram was first started as traditional trade in 1995 until the Government of India formalised on December 2015 and sadly become almost nonexistent today due to various reasons.
“The Assam Rifles and the other security forces often intercepted truck-loaded areca nuts. Smuggling of areca nuts in large quantities also affected the Indian farmers and traders,” the retired IAS officer said.
“In absence of the formal and regular official border trades between India and Myanmar, not only the smuggling and illegal trades are going on unchecked and the government is losing crores of revenue,” Lawmkunga told Ajit Weekly News.
He said that very often, smuggling of areca nuts (also known as betel nut) in large quantities from Myanmar into Mizoram and Manipur have been going on without any major restrictions. Numerous contrabands including gold and a varied harmful and highly stimulating drugs, especially heroin, highly-addictive methamphetamine tablets, also commonly known as ‘Yaba’ or ‘party tablets’, poppy seeds, opium, ganja (marijuana), morphine, bottles of cough syrup and various other illegal items as well as arms and ammunition valued at hundreds of crores are often smuggled from Myanmar.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])
–Ajit Weekly News